Why I’ve Stopped Defending SEO

Yesterday I attended a fascinating lecture by Ben Hammersley, organised by the British council, about the future of the internet. Read my write-up of the lecture on The Tomorrow Lab blog here.

There was one small blemish on this otherwise superb evening. At one point an audience member – probably not coincidentally a grey-haired man wearing a checked shirt – in the course of asking a question, referred to SEO (with venom dripping from his voice as he pronounced the acronym) as “snake-oil” and the embodiment of all that was wrong with the corporatisation of the internet.

At that time I thought to myself, ‘I need to have a chat with this guy after the lecture and set him straight.’ But then, as I contemplated it a little, I changed my mind. No, I was not going to set this guy straight. I don’t need to.

This was, after all, a member of a self-selected audience. This was a lecture about the internet, about digital technologies and what they can bring us. This talk was the sort of thing that would only be of interest to digital natives, to people who immerse themselves in all things digital. Because this man was part of this audience, it was exceptionally unlikely he was anything but a most avid user of the internet.

Here is a man who probably types queries in to Google several times of day. Here is a man who, every time he clicks on a link on a search engine results page, reaps the outcomes of SEO again and again and again. If there was ever a type of man who should not need to be explained what SEO really is and what it can do for him, it’s this man right here.

The fact that he so obviously loathed SEO and what he perceived it to stand for, can only be a symptom of a much greater ailment than a misunderstanding of what SEO is. That ailment is, of course, wilful ignorance.

I don’t need to defend SEO. Its virtues and usage are demonstrated millions of times a day, every single time someone types a query in to a search box.

And those who, even now, still don’t understand it – especially those who actively engage with the internet on a daily basis – are beyond redemption. If there was ever an apt time to use the phrase “not seeing the woods for the trees”, this would be it.

SEO doesn’t need to be explained, or defended, or educated on. SEO simply is. It doesn’t care whether you ‘believe’ in it or not. You either use it, or you perish.

About Barry Adams

Barry Adams is one of the chief editors of State of Digital and is an award-winning SEO consultant delivering specialised technical SEO services to clients worldwide.

11 thoughts on “Why I’ve Stopped Defending SEO

  1. Exactly Barry, good SEO is undetectable to a layman or even a well versed SE user. The crap hat shite is all that jumps out screaming SEO. The problem is to some extent the industry has enabled this by not addressing the fallacies such as early SEOs were all a bunch of keyword stuffing mugs! When in fact there was nothing to tell us this was not a good technique, or rather, a long term solution, it definitely worked for a while, and when it stopped working we stopped doing it, no different than today… other than we weren’t a bunch of spoon fed info by SE’s we actually had to figure it out on our own or in the community (small as it was). There are also those who we eat their lunch on a daily basis and instead of changing what they do… they call us names and treat us with disdain out of ignorance.

  2. F*ck yeah!

    To play devil’s advocate, I suspect that while this guy was saying “SEO” he was actually meaning black hat coding and all kinds of other immoral and unfair practices. He’s still wrong and/or confused.

    One of my main SEO projects at the moment is for a UK charity. To me, SEO is about getting the traffic a website deserves. In this case SEO is enabling people who are actively seeking help via Google, find a charity that can give it to them. No snake oil in sight.

  3. Amen, Barry! This is the essence of my own thoughts. I often end up in discussions with people claiming that SEO ruins the Internet. I try to explain to them what SEO really is but all they can talk about are thin affiliate sites etc.

    You are so right – they are beyond redemption.

  4. I speculated once about the state of the internet if the art of SEO didnt exist. The only conclusion I could draw was that google results would be REALLY shit instead of just being kinda shit if it wasnt for the practice.

    Yer man you refer to in this post Barry sounds more like someone who met some bloke down the pub and got SOLD (like anyting in life) the concept of only paying *200 dollars and he would get an amazing retun, then another *200 dollars was required, then *200 more and on and on until he ended up paying more than the professional who oringally quoted him a sum of *2000 euros for the proper service.

    Thats not snake oil, thats just being a chump. (Im guessing obviously, but I bet he would claim its snake oil so he dont like like a chunmp!)

    Anyway. Theres no such thing as the SEO police. You, me and the rest of us have our ethical level and we have a professional practice of doing business that we try to stick to, no matter how murky the waters can sometimes get!

    The more honest of us will be professional and do our level best for clients, at the right price, and hopefully all of us succeed together. That takes more than enough time and effort to do and do properly, never mind trying to set every other person straight.

    All in all mate, very well put.

    *(figures quoted are for illustration only – they bear no relevnece to real world amounts)

  5. I think the following shall go down as one of my favorite quotes of all time!!!!

    “SEO doesn’t need to be explained, or defended, or educated on. SEO simply is. It doesn’t care whether you ‘believe’ in it or not. You either use it, or you perish.”

  6. This article is the perfect example how SEO destroys user experience. How ironic that this post has absolutely no content, apart from repeating the word SEO over and over again, never explaining why it’s needed or how it could harm people who need to look up actual information.

      1. In that case, great post. I didn’t expect that level of sarcasm from an “award-winning SEO consultant” on a page labeled “making you a better marketer”

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